Poetry: Catching by Arah Ko

Alight with a sense of intergenerational connection, Arah Ko’s “Catching” enters its speaker’s childhood and expands into a pursuit of a family history“a long line of flame-mongers”and resistances. Moving the reader through sharply woven couplets that blend past and present, the poem leads us to beauty.


I’m eight with a matchbox in my pocket.
I only know a few things: squirrels

don’t hibernate in Michigan; librarians
don’t vote for Bush. Snow melts

on my lashes, my hand-me-down jacket,
but I linger by the chain link, wise enough

to anticipate another round of standardized
tests and too small to avoid them.

I thumb one matchstick, pinches of sulfur.
Someone said No Child Left Behind. A teacher

is coming to get me. I was born into a long
line of flame-mongers: my father spinning

cans of coals over a bone-dry field, his
father feeding flames with Japanese books,

photographs of his dead mother. They find me
too late, tinder already buried beneath a tree,

no evidence in my pockets, backpack, locker.
I asked my father why he did it, his regret

palpable after the crop caught ablaze. He said
I don’t know or I was a fool and once, face lit

by a tame campfire, you should have seen it
when the sparks flew fast they were so beautiful.

Arah Ko

Arah Ko is a writer from Hawai'i. Her work is published or forthcoming in Ninth Letter, Threepenny Review, New Ohio Review, swamp pink, Quarterly West, RHINO, and elsewhere. She received her MFA in creative writing from the Ohio State University where she served on the staff of The Journal. Arah is a current Poetry Editor for Surging Tides Magazine. When not writing, she can be found in the jungle. Catch her at arahko.com.

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